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April 21, 2003
Volume 81, Number 16
CENEAR 81 16 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


MATERIALS SCIENCE

Insulating Nanotube Sheathes Nanowire

RON DAGANI

"We have created insulated C60 nanowire by packing C60 molecules into the interior of insulating boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs)," a research team led by physics professor Alex Zettl of the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports in Science [300, 467 (2003)].

With a BNNT of suitably small diameter, the buckyballs inside form a linear chain. When Zettl and coworkers bombard the BNNTs with a high-intensity beam of electrons, the buckyballs coalesce to form a single-walled carbon nanotube inside the BNNT.

The team hasn't yet directly measured the electrical properties of the encased nanotube, which could be either metallic or semiconducting. Zettl thinks it might be possible to tailor-make a metallic nanotube inside BNNTs. Such insulated nanowires could pack closely together without shorting out.

When the Berkeley researchers pack larger-diameter BNNTs with buckyballs, they observe zigzag, corkscrew, and other unusual stacking arrangements (as pictured) that haven't been seen before in bulk or thin-film forms of C60. "C60 in BNNTs thus presents a model system for studying the properties of dimensionally constrained 'silo' crystal structures," they write.

8116NOTW7zettl
IMAGE COURTESY OF ZETTL RESEARCH GROUP/UC BERKELEY AND LBNL

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